Looking Forward….……as of today

Looking Forward….……as of today

Thanksgiving Week, No Time to Pause the College Planning Button


The Fall is usually an exciting month for high school & college students as they return to the classroom and campus activities.  This year, life is just a little different. Covid-19 and its domino effects on the education system,  social interaction, and athletics programs have made for a very turbulent and stressful time. As a parent of four, now working adults, I continue to ask myself, what if I was parenting right now. What would I do? Answer- keep to the plan moving forward.

Sticking to the plan, one focused on goals and expectations, is the best medicine for dealing with uncertainty.  High school and college-age students and those who recently entered the workforce are better equipped to pivot and adjust when dealing with the unexpected before, during, and after college. Here are a few time-sensitive tasks and action items that should be part of this month’s plan.

HS Seniors

  • Deadlines – Application deadlines for high school seniors is now upon us. Admissions and financial aid applications are available, ready for completion and submissions. Getting in and paying for college are driven by two essential applications, the Common App and the FAFSA. Each critical, each requiring time and attention to be completed and filed timely.
    • Students electing to apply EARLY should have sent in their Common Application by now. Students who are holding off or still making their final choices are now looking at December 1- through February 1, 2021 deadlines.

NOTE: Colleges are waiting for applications; if ready, don’t wait for future deadlines-file them now.

  • The FAFSA, the Free Application for Student Aid, should be completed and submitted as early as possible. The Application launches the process of determining a student and family’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. Aid provided from sources including colleges and universities, federal and state, and external sources (employers, civic/community/philanthropic organizations).

Note: All students with an eye on attending college in September of 2021 need to complete the FAFSA.

  • Compare and Evaluate – a continuous process that leads to making a final college selection. For some students and their families, it is immediate; for others, additional time to analyze offers before saying yes. The process can include revisiting a campus, the academic curriculum, and the student life scene, which might change one’s perception and impact one’s goals and expectations over time. Evaluating and questioning is common and can be healthy. A life change event like enrolling in college should answer the question, is this the right one for me? Academic, social, emotional, and financial. Will the college I select set me on my path? Deposit Day is May 1, 2021.

HS Juniors

  • Prequalification before Shopping – the college lists are ready, but how many students and families have evaluated the cost. College is expensive, ranging from $116,000 to $215,000, public and private in-state. Such a big-ticket purchase should first begin with a simple prequalification. Sticker price minus tuition assistance equals the net cost to the student and their family. Dreaming I can get in and hoping I can pay is a recipe for trouble, financial trouble.
  • Evaluating during a pandemic – traditional meet and greet and campus tours are out. Virtual tours, self-guided campus visits are now the play of the day. However, we will return to actual campus visits sometime this Spring, and current juniors and their parents need to be ready. Ready with their top options and the hardcore questions to be asking when finally meeting with college representatives.
  • Standing Out – Never has it been more critical for students to build relationships and raise awareness on college campuses. In these current times of canceled high school visits and college fairs, relationship building between students and college representatives is not happening. To stand out, students need to become a marketer, communicating, and engaging college. Texting, email, and phone calls are three ways a student and college representatives can connect. Waiting for college could result in lost opportunities for acceptance and financial offers. Raise your hand and say hello today!

Workforce November Checklist

  • Returning to School – COVID-19 might have dusted off the idea of returning to college to complete a degree, start a new one (BS/MS/MD) or add a professional skill. Institutions are looking to your interest and can get you started quickly. Consider your eligibility for employee reimbursement benefits, federal and institutional financial aid, or use of programs offered through MassHire and the Career Centers in Salem and Woburn.
  • Managing Educational Debt – federal student loans and some private education loan programs have been on hold during the CV-19 pandemic. But come December 31 and no additional offerings from Washington, loan payments will once again be due. Now is the time to evaluate the use of education loan refinancing to help stabilize budgets and loan payments, lock in all-time loan rates and help with the overall management of education loan debt post-CV-19. Resources are available to help with best practice decisions, including those through AAA Northeast.

CALMING THE WATERS – Are you feeling anxious? Have questions? Everything starts with a Conversation – Text, phone [617-240-7350], or email at tom@getcollegegoing.com  Follow me on FB/getcollegegoing  – Learn more at www.getcollegegoing.com

Looking for quality virtual (college planning) support during these uncertain times, Pivotal College Years, an affiliated partner of Get College Going,  and is making the College Planning Portal for Families FREE to EVERYONE until December 31, 2020. EVERYTHING college before, during, and after, in one place.

College Counseling During Interesting Times

College Counseling During Interesting Times

As I put thoughts together today, my mind is racing with what to pen. So much has happened in the last month; it is crazy not to think that this past month (or more) has not left many feeling paralyzed. Over the week, I need to get a card, and as I drove to and walked in the parking lot, I have the feeling I was in a tourist area in the offseason. In my decade(s), what I can compare this recent experience too is the Blizzard of ’78 and 9/11. Both left me paralyzed and asking why? But as we did after those life-changing events, we are/should be moving forward supporting our families and friends.

As the parent of four working college graduates, the current stressors and strains bring me back to their journeys, stressful but nowhere near what current students and parents are navigating. Thoughts during these unsettling times:

Admitted Students: Congratulations! Many students are learning of their offers to join the incoming Class of 2020, their next Freshman class. Generally, to follow is an invitation to an “Accepted Students Day” program. The event held on campus is designed to take a student and their family across the finish line. It’s the “Say Yes” to the college event with deposits to follow, reserving a seat in the class, and a dorm room.

Still Thinking – Comparing Choices: College is an investment, mind, body, and money, so slowing the pace is while evaluating strengths and weaknesses, is a critical step. Academics, emotional and social stability, affordability, and an ROI that points one towards employment are all the boxes to check. Yes, some schools, those in the Elite, Ivy, small liberal arts sectors may hold their May 1 Deposit Day firm; however, hundreds of others, campuses equal in the brand and experience, are moving their dates. Breath and check their website.

Rising HS/Transfer Students: Although the Corona Virus has changed everything, many things for HS sophomores, juniors, and seniors still contemplating their path after high school remain the same. The difference is how to get it done. Testing, campus tours, evaluating colleges, and calculating college cost are some of the many critical tasks on every college planning checklist. Executing them now as we bounce back will be the key. Tours have become virtual; learning through Webinars communication turns to Skype/Facetime/phone, and Testing Dates are going to be June.

Stick to the Plan: In these times of uncertainty, the best resource is one’s plan. A plan that identifies the tasks and responsibilities shows accountability and structure, uses resources and tools and is modified as needed.

Don’t Be Passive: Everything related to obtaining services and assistance needs to flavored with honey versus vinegar. But, if things are not working, questions are going unanswered, students are not learning, one needs to be their most influential advocate.

Today’s News – What’s the Decision: Hitting the pause button has been my rule of thumb during times of crisis, emotions, and life-changing events. The pause button allows me to seek out support, begin my questioning, and remain holistic in my view. Whether it was little Devlyn’s seizures, Thomas Jr.’s deciding to join the Corp as a grunt with a Bachelors Degree (i.e., no OCS) or releasing my 84-year-old dad from his suffering, life-changing events are never easy to manage. Understanding the rules, thinking ahead, and using one’s network of friends, family, and trusted advisers (not to forget faith) allows us to weather the storm. So whether we are still confronting the virus or working to bring our lives back to some sense of normalcy, let’s remember we have a league of supports ready to assist us on our journey!!

Don’t weather along!!

School Bells are Ringing

School Bells are Ringing

Attention Parents with High School Students

Planning for the new school year is underway. Trips to the mall, school supplies, getting ready for classes and new surroundings are now top of mind. Question: Is planning for after high school on your mind?

Freshman and Sophomore – The newest students to the high school scene will be experiencing new surroundings, academic thills, and the start of building their resume. Freshman and Sophomore students should use this time for discovery and exploring what interests and motivates; academically and personally.  For the family, it is time to learn about college cost and a review of financial capabilities.

Juniors – This is the pivotal college year and September is when it all begins. Time to create the post-high school plan! A plan that maps out the steps, tasks, and activities required to enroll in college, start a skilled professional career or maybe a combination of both. Here’s when the search, evaluation, and hard-core preparation for post-high school decision making truly begins. Visiting colleges, promoting a student’s interest, test-taking and determining how to pay for college just a few of the things many things to do during this pivotal year. Hint: the clock ticks quickly!!

Seniors – If a plan is not in place or not being worked, it’s scramble time!! What typically takes the whole junior year now must be condensed into 3-6 months. Doable, yes. Faster pace and a little more intense, for sure!  For those seniors already working their plan, September kicks into gear the final steps and action items including filing admissions and financial aid applications and culminating by making a choice! It’s all about the 3 W’s and one H – on the fast track!!

6 Keys to Making the Post High School Move Easier

The thought of determining what happens after high school can turn calm and easy-going households into the Goliath ride at Six Flags. A ride that can make what should be an exciting experience a stressful ball of fire. Here are a few ways to turn a potentially wild ride into a smooth and rewarding experience.


Communication is the #1 ingredient when developing the secret sauce for a successful experience. Establishing and keeping a stream of information flowing is critical. A two-way flow that feeds openly by a student, parent(s), and others involved. Strong communication that is connected to a sound plan is essential to mapping out what’s next for a student after high school.


Understanding what one wants to do, might be thinking, and capable of, are critical to the planning process. Majors, type of schools, family spending power, available resources are just a few areas that need to be on the table. Identifying wants and understanding expectation is essential. Being on the same wavelength is critical for everyone on the team. Communicating and maintaining a clear understanding of expectation adds to the success of the secret sauce.

Understanding the Game 

Knowledge is power. Learning and understanding the different parts of one’s options, moving on to college, securing an apprenticeship or even enlistment in the service is critical to the sauce. Deadlines, application flows, cost, eligibility for funding resources are complicated in themselves. Developing and maintaining a strong understanding of all the parts will make connecting them easier. Asking questions, attending information sessions, and obtaining information are all critical steps to the learning experience.

Share the Tasks

As they say, there is no “I” in team! Everyone, a student, parent(s), school administrators, teachers, coaches, and extended family members are all part of guiding a student’s next move. The work should be shared and communicate regularly. Researching, networking, traveling to college visits, and managing the calendar of events is a group effort. No one person can or will do it all!!

Be Realistic

“Dream big but be realistic.” A statement used when we encourage and motivate students to strive to be their best. Out of fear and societal influences we under mind to the true essence of the message. We fail to celebrate the value of individuality. In the college world, it worsens when students and families exceed their realistic levels, a measurement of authentic (genuine) abilities and capabilities.  As a result, students and families overshot their opportunity to be “their best,” only to keep up with classmates, myths, and those dam societal pressures. Let’s shift the conversation. Dream big, be realistic, and be proud!!

Have a Plan

Today, mapping one’s path after high school can be very overwhelming. College, work, skilled professional, military service, a gap year can easily lead to I don’t know! Sometimes the pressure can make one seem like the Mad-Hatter; too much to do, not enough time.  Add in what society and social media communicates, and yes, it’s no wonder more, and more students and families do not struggle with their options and choices. Utilizing a comprehensive college plan can be the key to reducing stress and helping everyone stay focused. Putting a plan in place that outlines tasks, activities deadlines and critical steps throughout the junior and senior year can bring harmony to any household

Pivotal Time – Definitely!

Pivotal Time – Definitely!

Start the Clock – High School Juniors!

Pivotal time of the year, definitely!

Parents, mom’s of high school juniors, if not already, the college planning experience should be started! College admissions and financial aid is a complex and competitive process. Here are five considerations to add to the “going to college” experience.

Know Your Affordability

Equal to finding one’s educational path after high school is understanding college cost. How will one pay the college bill? Getting in is essential, but having a plan to pay is critical.

The average annual cost of tuition and fees for private four-year college in 2017-2018 (College Board) was $34,740 while $9,970 for a state resident at a public college. But, add in room and board, transportation and personal expenses and the true annual cost of attending is closer to $52,000 (private) and $25,00 (public).

A college search must start with understanding college costs and a realistic idea as to how educational cost will be paid. How much has the family saved to cover college cost? How will we handle one student, not to mention multiple students in college? What is the expectation for scholarships and financial aid and will we be eligible? How much will we be expected to pay? These questions along with others need to be asked and addressed early college planning conversations. Understanding cost and how to make an affordable college choice is critical to the overall college experience.

Understand Your Student

There are many factors that go into searching for and selecting a student’s educational path after high school. Should a student follow a traditional four-year institutional path, maybe community college first or even go to work and feel out the real world.

The junior year is a pivotal time to evaluate a student’s readiness and interest to continue their education after high school.  Today, the pressure associated with going to college and incurring debt, just because everyone goes, should no long be the accepted norm. Yes, education after high school is important for gaining financial and social stability, however, there are multiple paths to follow. Education is a lifelong pursuit and the choice of a path that meets a student’s academic and personal talents (and interest) needs to be championed and supported by educators, business leaders and society!

Understanding your junior (scrambling senior) is difficult enough. Guiding one through the education-work conversation can be numbing.  However, parents today need to stop the train and have an open, no judgmental conversations. Junior year for sure, but even earlier is better. Works with one’s hands, driven by design, creative writer, can fix anything, loves science are just a few of the discovery questions that might reveal a path to follow. Liberal arts, economics, electrical apprentice or even an entry level banker while attending courses part-time. Grades, rank, testing, sports and leadership fill in the gaps regarding questioning interest. As parents (Dad of four) we want our students to be successful, however, success after high school can be defined as attending college, entering a trade or a combination of earning and learning. Once we understand our student, we explore the educational paths open to pursue after high school.

 Learn the Financial Side

Set on going to college. Fantastic. Remember, we already asked you to consider how will you pay and what is your affordability limit. However, understanding how scholarships, grants and need-based financial aid works is another essential part of a student and family finding an affordable choice. All three are vital to helping pay the bill, but each have their own criteria, eligibility and spoiler alert, many not be available to everyone.  Financial aid, specifically need-based aid, plays a key role in helping students and families meet college cost. Parents of current sophomore and juniors need to spend quality time learning how financial aid is determined, what is a families what financial information reporting “base year” and the impact of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Equal to where a student wants to attend is how will the bill get paid. Learning the financial side will shed a great deal of information to answer the question.

 Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Plan

The junior year is the pivotal point when students and family begin to the process of determine a high school student’s educational path after graduation. Will it be traditional, four-year degree program, attending community college or starting working first?

Consider Mom’s College Planning Checklist. Designed for Mom (sorry Dad), to help map out the steps necessary to finding, selecting and determining an affordable educational path for their student after high school. The plan should include month to month tasks, deadlines, touring campuses, test taking and completing financial aid forms. A comprehensive plan can be obtained when working with Get College Going, however, Mom’s Plan, will keep everyone on track and harmony in the household.

 Watch the Clock

Time can be your enemy or your savior. The typical college planning – enrollment timeline starts in December of a junior’s high school year and can run on average for 18 months. Now, 18 months sounds like a long time, however, academic, social, athletic/dance/performing arts, and other activities can make the time disappear in the blink of an eye. The power of planning is critical to finding an affordable educational path after high school.

Ask for Help

We are only scratching the surface with the advice provide in this piece. College planning can be a complex and sometimes overwhelming period in a student and family’s life. Ask for help. Students stay connected to your parents. Plus, collectively, ask friends, extended family members, the high school guidance department. And, if you need to, ask for independent professional assistance. Learn, Explore & Question!

Pivotal Time – Definitely!

Paths to Education After High School

You approach a fork in the road. You are pressed to make a decision. Do I turn left, right or go straight? Will my GPS guide me?

College Right After High School?

Many high school students, parents and young adults find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to decisions on what path to follow after high school. Thankfully, there are different choices for an individual to reach their goals and aspiration. Finding the fork in the road is key!!

However, over time society has not shinned the brightest light on all options. But why? Attending college right out of high school has historically been the path that students are all encouraged to follow. A path that is appropriate for 75% of a graduating class. For students interested in pursuing their education but not ready for the traditional path, alternatives are available and should be strongly considered.

Today, is it critical to expose young minds, as early as Middle School to the different types of roles, jobs and professions that as a nation and society we need (will be needed) to remain competitive and financially strong. Roles that many times take different educational paths after high school, but each are valuable to the student and their future. Paths launched through a high school experience designed around a college prep, vocational/technical education and/or a blended combination. A students academic, personal and financial background as well as aspirations and goals are key factors to determining the path.

Which Path is Yours?

High School to College – the traditional route to a 4-year public or private college. Focused on an outcome that provides a gateway to graduate school and/or a professional career in any number of industries. Students who follow this path are typically enrolled in a college prep program (or combination) with a GPA equal to a B- or better and following mandatory state equivalent academic courses for acceptance in a state college. Students take college prep, Honors and AP course. Individuals seek acceptance 4-year public and private colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada or internationally.

Associates to Bachelors – students who struggle academically in high school but have the aspirations to complete a Bachelor Degree program can turn to the successful A2B program option. Students begin at the Community College level developing their college readiness (academic and personal) full-time (working part-time), complete their 2-year Associates Degree transferring to complete the remaining 2 years at a 4 Year college and/or university. Many states, including Massachusetts sponsor “transfer’ programs that offer tuition incentives. The A2B Program is a very important option for all students including those seeking a financially affordable option. (example: Mass Transfer)

Earn and Learn – individuals who wish to enter the workforce but continue their educational path attend college can also find options. Options including Community College, Continuing Education/Professional Studies Program in a wide area of disciplines and focuses. Students generally work full-time and school part-time. Individuals come from work forces in financial, health care, retail, hotel management fields. Many states offer programs to assist individuals pursue this option including incentives to commit the this post high school options (example: Commonwealth Commitment)

Gap Year –  time between high school and college when students with aspirations for college but are not ready to enroll, take a break to evaluate their next steps. Many individuals need this time to mature, evaluate and plot academic and career options. Individuals during this one-year span will pursue volunteer services, enroll in non-academic courses, internships and/or work. This is not a period that this author endorses as a “travel the world” option.

Technical and trade – property owners know the critical importance of a professionally trained technical and/or trade individuals. But today plumbers, electricians and contractors are joined by organizations looking for individuals with skills in technology, cyber security, healthcare, aviation & auto mechanics, wellness, manufacturing and 3-D designing. Individuals can enter these professions directly from vocational technical high school, trade unions  and/or trade and technical colleges.

Military Service – a role that calls for a special type of man or women who is willing to place their county and its citizens before their own Individuals who are called to this role are high school and/or college graduate with academic and personal character positioning them to meet the enlistment eligibility criteria of the specific brand of service. Individuals select from a wide range of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that include communications, administrative, technology, engineering, infantry, equipment and others. Once one completes their service commitment they are able to take their training and leadership skills in pursuit of an educational and/or workplace path.

Supporting Options and Choices

Parents and extended support groups, you have the greatest responsibility to be remain the advocate for your student(s). Educating young minds on the options after high school needs to be introduced as early as middle school and re-enforced throughout high school. High school seniors and those who have left high school undecided (17-25 years of old), must be encouraged to their specific education path. Parents and extended support groups need to be vigilant and aware of biases willing to placing barriers in front of students. Supporting different paths to achieve desired outcomes should be the goal for all students and parents.

Civic, business and educational leaders must focus on providing guidance and direction that supports different paths to education and careers. Championing all paths through greater education and exposure at an early age can plant great foundations for individuals and overcome the opportunity gap to help young adults gain financial stability and personal happiness.

Summer Checklist

Students heading off to college in September should remember to review their Summer Checklist to make sure everything is in order. Oh, you do not have one, well consider the following item. New Freshman…yours have an extra star at the end.

The last thing any college students wants to happen is that you arrive on campus on move-in day and you can not get your swipe card or key to the castle (dorm)!! And this goes for returning upper-class students.

  • Send in dorm deposit -should have been in a month ago!!
  • Finalize your strategy to pay the net tuition cost (the balance) – due August 1st
  • Register and/or RSVP for orientation (request alternative date if needed) *
  • Search for a roommate on the college’s portal and/or at orientation; if you want to play the wild card you can always default to – One will be Assigned *
  • Research dorm services and resources such as the magical Refrig-Micowave
  • Activate your Student Email & ID *
  • Submit your final High School or Community College Transcript *
  • Complete outstanding forms (Meal Plan Selection, Campus Security Policy)
  • Request, Sign and Submit a Student Health Waiver (if the student is covered under his/her parent’s healthcare plan
  • Review the restrictions of sharing information set forth by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and if everything is cool, seek out and execute a FERPA Waiver (allows parents to view student records even though a student turns 18 years of age) – come on..who is paying the bill!!.
  • Health/Immunization Records *
  • Documentation supporting the crediting of earned AP/IB credits *
  • Take Placement Tests (if required) *
  • Register for courses while attending orientation * 
  • Research Extra-curricular – learn how to get involved*
  • Pack (don’t buy a lot of none personal items until you talk to your roommate(s)…dorms are small*

Finally, the last item on the list is the most critical. Have the conversation about college drinking. It happens, it’s reality and it is extremely important that 17-24 years old’s understand the consequences. Understand that over 1800 students each year DIE from excessive drinking not to mention the other negative outcomes. Parents & extended family members, don’t be naive – have the conversation and be supportive…….closing your eye could make your student number 1801!!

So, the clock is ticking and even thought the summer heat is raging  the month of August will be gone in a flash. Plan now for a smooth move-in day and don’t forget to pencil in Parent’s Weekend.